Mandatory injury reports Amazon submitted to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration have thus far painted a broad picture of its operations as unusually dangerous, well above the warehousing industry average. New logs obtained by Gizmodo for one of the company’s oldest warehouses in Texas show a meaningful increase in the rate at which its workers are getting hurt, too.
Amazon is currently the second-largest employer in the U.S. behind Walmart, but like nearly any other business, it’s required to track injuries that rise to a defined level of severity: those that result in death, loss of consciousness, require “medical treatment beyond first aid,” involve punctured eardrums, fractured bones, or the diagnosis of an irreversible chronic illness, to name a few examples. In other words, what’s being recorded are not skinned knees and paper-cuts. The sum total of these injuries are collected in OSHA forms 300 and 300a. The former details the exact date, variety, and result of each injury, while the latter provides an overview, as well as the facility’s overall productivity.
Previously, Amazon has claimed its outsized rate of injury was due to its penchant for bucking what it described as an industry trend. “There’s a dramatic level of under-recording of safety incidents across the industry,” a spokesperson told Gizmodo in November. “We recognised this in 2016 and began to take an aggressive stance on recording injuries no matter how big or small.” That policy would not, however, explain why its incident rate in Haslet, Texas, continues to rise year over year.
The logs, which cover all of 2017, 2018, and 2019 for a warehouse internally dubbed DFW7—a 1-million-square-foot small-items fulfilment centre in Haslet—show working conditions grew progressively more dangerous over this three-year period. It’s unclear if this trend is widely true for Amazon’s many other warehouses.
In 2017, the Haslet facility had an Incident Rate (IR) of 8.15. Despite previous protestations from Amazon that injury numbers are a reflection of the size of its workforce rather than the relative dangerousness of its workplaces, IRs are calculated against the total hours worked in a facility rather than the number of employees so as not to weight the metric against bigger firms simply for being big. Even so, DFW7 was operating at nearly double the industry average, an IR of 4.4, for warehousing that year. 2018 was very much the same—Amazon’s 8.72 against a 4.5 industry benchmark, making work there statistically more dangerous than at a state psychiatric hospital (7.4), aluminium foundry (8.5), or a prison (7.3).
DFW7's IR continued its trend last year, hitting a staggering 9.59. In other words, about one in 10 employees in that warehouse have been involved in a workplace incident severe enough to merit reporting to OSHA. The Bureau of Labour Statistics has not yet released industry data for 2019.
Similarly, the Days Away/Restricted or Job Transfer (DART) Rate over this period went from 7.59 to 7.82, to 8.49. It would appear these numbers exceed the highest industry averages for 2017 and 2018, which in 2017 were tied between motor home manufacturing and nursing home care both years at 7.0 and 7.2, respectively.
Amazon did not yet respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.
Workers at Amazon’s facilities have repeatedly spoken up about brutal conditions, particularly during “peak season,” the time leading up to and through the winter holidays. We found nearly a third of all injuries occurred at DFW7 during peak, using a conservative timeframe of October 1 through December 31. And although the overwhelming majority of injuries listed were either sprains or bruises, the incidents that occurred in Haslet included heat stress, electrical shock, hernias, crushed hands and feet, concussions, fractures, lacerations, and one avulsion tear involving a worker’s right big toe and a pallet jack.
In part, many advocates believe the obsession on metrics and efficiency within Amazon’s warehouses is what leads to lapses in safety, often criticising the company for treating its workers worse than the robots it increasingly deploys to pack and ship orders. The pace of work and its negative effects—in terms of mental health, physical wellness, or the ability to freely use the restroom—has become a significant part of organising efforts within the company’s ranks.
Recently, Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Ilhan Omar have requested OSHA release the 300 and 300a logs for all Amazon facilities, though the agency has so far appeared unwilling to comply.
OSHA 300 and 300a logs are not public information—but if requested by current or former employees, a business is legally required to provide them within two days. If you’d like to help us gather more data on Amazon, reach out by email, Twitter DM, or Keybase chat.